The best time to make a local economy great is when the economy is already good.

That’s now. Things are going well in Lake Havasu City, judged by healthy real estate sales, plenty of jobs offered and strong upticks in taxable sales.

Likewise, Mohave County as a whole is not only doing pretty well, but also looking to do even better with a couple of large solar projects planned in separate rural areas.

Still, the local economy needs to develop into its full promise and, in so doing, avert the slow death faced by many towns across our country that can’t attract a skilled work force necessary to staff the jobs of the coming years.

More than two years ago, Lake Havasu City won more than $2 million in a national economic development competition. Its entry was focused on demographic starvation, the idea that Baby Boomer workers are retiring much quicker than a smaller workforce can replace them.

A supporting concept is that jobs in the future will result from the innovations and creativity of upcoming generations and will require new types of skills the boomers didn’t have to learn.

All true.

Since that contest, plans have been drawn and redrawn for a downtown area work and play space and planning continues for some type of water/ecological center in the as-yet-unopened Riviera area.

More tangibly, the Partnership for Economic Development, which has charge of the prize winnings, opened a co-work space offering cheap rent to individuals with the idea their businesses will grow.

The PED is also involved with the direction at the mall, particularly pushing the idea of omni-channel selling through physical storefronts and online.

These are all worthwhile projects to start. It’s a good idea when planting unknown seeds to plant many since who knows how many will germinate and sprout.

These projects, along with pushes in some more traditional directions, all deserve some extra effort right now. Why?

Recent unemployment rate reports show a continuing divide between the cities and the smaller towns in Arizona. Maricopa County’s most recently came in at 4.2% compared to Mohave’s rate of 5.5%. (The Arizona Commerce Authority says Lake Havasu City’s unemployment is 5%.)

Five percent or more unemployment is not full employment. It means one of 20 available workers is looking for employment.

Meanwhile, more than 65% of the city’s 2,500 businesses employ from one to four employees.

We suggest that those with two to four employees should receive the most nurturing from local job support groups. They are beyond the “one-man show” stage yet they probably need some help to get larger.

Similarly, traditional recruitment strategies for small employers, especially specialty manufacturers, should supplement current efforts to grow jobs from within.

It’s much better to focus on these now rather than when the inevitable dip hits and leaders scurry for quick answers as workers and their families head for better economies in the large cities.

— Today’s News-Herald


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